Portsmouth vs Birmingham Preview

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 15 January 2010
With all the talk of tomorrow's pre-match protest, it seems Pompey fans have forgotten just how important tomorrow's game against Birmingham is.

The Protest

Prior to reports in the local rag, the protest has not been called off and goes ahead as planned. I've kept pretty quiet about the whole issue because I don't know what to believe any more and I'm not sure if the impact of this protest is going to be positive or not.

It's certainly had an impact before it has even begun as it has forced Mark Jacob to try and ally fears over Pompey's current situation after months of silence.

The protest is supposed to be a peaceful affair and I think it's good that a large section of the Pompey support want to march and show the owners that they aren't impressed with the current lies the board have been spinning in our direction.

The nay-sayers will say the protest is pointless and will cause more problems than it's worth. My main worry is that Pompey's idiot contingent will use this march as an excuse to cause trouble. I just hope that there's enough security around to stop any fools tarnishing the name of Portsmouth FC.

My other worry comes from what is said inside Fratton Park. Pompey have already received complaints regarding the racist (or ignorant) nature of the "you can stick your fucking Arabs up your arse" chants during the Arsenal game. Those chants did some heavy damage to our reputation in the middle east and I don't want to hear a repeat tomorrow.

I'll be going to the march tomorrow but more as an observer than an active protester, simply because I don't know what to believe any more. I don't have confidence in the current board, but in the event that they are doing what they can to get the club out of trouble, I don't want to be driving them out just yet. After all, what's the alternative?

Team News

Avram Grant has David James available after his move to Stoke fell through, although it's expected that Asmir Begovic will continue in goal. Jamie O'Hara has returned to Tottenham following his loan spell, but Younes Kaboul should be fit to take his place in the side.

However, there is a doubt that Kevin-Prince Boateng will be unavailable after limping off at Coventry on Tuesday and all of Pompey's African Cup of Nations contingent are still in Angola.

Alex McLeish is set to name an unchanged side from the team that drew 1-1 with Manchester United which comes as no surprise given that Birmingham are unbeaten in 12 Premier League games. New signing Michel should start on the bench.

The Match

This is a game that Pompey can't afford to lose and if I'm being honest, is one we really have to win ahead of Tuesday night's massive clash with West Ham. Two trips to the Manchester clubs follow these two games, so it's imperative we get a result tomorrow.

Birmingham are a shining example of what a takeover by a man with money can give you. Since Carson Yeung's takeover, Birmingham have transformed from relegation strugglers into Europa League contenders thanks to an unbeaten run that stretches all the way back to the 17th of October.

The main reason that the Brummies can boast this unbeaten run is that they have a settled team that is a good mix of graft and flair and although they might not score many goals, the central defensive pair of Roger Johnson and Scott Dann along with goalkeeper Joe Hart have been instrumental in keeping the ball out of their own net.

Without the talents of Jamie O'Hara and possibly Kevin-Prince Boateng, I'm struggling to see how we can break down such a stubborn unit. But I'm hoping that the late, late show against Coventry has breathed new life into our campaign and that Utaka and Basinas can carry their cup cameo performances into the league.

It's difficult to call this one, and I hate to sound cliche but this one will simply be about which team takes their chances.

Predicted Starting Line-Ups

Pompey

GK: Asmir BEGOVIC

RB: Steve FINNAN
CB: Younes KABOUL
CB: Tal BEN-HAIM
LB: Hermann HREIDARSSON

RM: John UTAKA
CM: Michael BROWN
CM: Aaron MOKOENA
CM: Hayden MULLINS
LM: Tommy SMITH

CF: Frederic PIQUIONNE

Birmingham

GK: Joe HART

RB: Stephen CARR
CB: Roger JOHNSON
CB: Scott DANN
LB: Liam RIDGEWELL

RM: Sebastien LARSSON
CM: Lee BOWYER
CM: Barry FERGUSON
LM: James McFADDEN

CF: Christian BENITEZ
CF: Cameron JEROME

Last Time: Portsmouth 4 Birmingham City 2

Fresh from beating Manchester United in the FA Cup, Pompey stormed into a two goal lead with a brace from Jermain Defoe, the second goal being a penalty. Birmingham hit back immediately via Fabrice Muamba and went in at half time level thanks to Larsson's free kick.

Pompey retook the lead in the second half thanks to Hermann Hreidarsson's strike and then Kanu sealed the points with a stoppage time header.

Pundit Watch

Lawro: Home Win (2-1)
Sky Sports: Draw (1-1)
Soccernet: Away Win

My Prediction: This is a tough one to call, we need to win but Birmingham aren't twelve games unbeaten for nothing. I can't see us scoring against their defence, but I think we'll keep a rare clean sheet too.

Portsmouth 0 Birmingham City 0

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Last game - Match Centre


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